A Pedestrian Experience of the Cinta Costera III: Casco Viejo, Panama


Panama is not the most walkable city but there are newer pieces and parts planned in pedestrian friendly style.

The Casco Viejo is a city of contrasts, a city under restoration intertwined with a city crumbling down. When I arrived there unexpectedly for a week’s stay I was surprised at the intensity of traffic crowding through the narrow streets.

Walking along the waters edge from the old town to the fish market, I watched the construction progressing on an elevated road above the bay. A u-shaped causeway was taking shape. Heavy machinery and work crews stood silhouetted against the skyline. Viewed from the top of Cerro Ancon (a hill looming above and directly west) the shape was reminiscent of ancient fortress walls.


I peeked past the barriers and around the guards stationed in front of the entry to the on ramp, wondering where this over water ring road reconnected with the city.  Then one morning in my hostel lobby, an announcement on the news reached my ears, the opening celebrations of the Cinta Costera III was scheduled for that evening.

There were fireworks over the Casco Viejo that night. Fireworks with rainbow LED lighting streaking around the historic port, emphasizing the route and adding another level of pizzazz to the display. Since noticing the ring road, I hoped I could run the length of it and discover its destination on foot.


The next evening, the traffic in town was noticeably less. Out there in the bay, I could see cars and trucks zipping along freely. I checked in with my fellow walkers/runners/skaters and confirmed, the pedestrian walkway took you round to the other side of the old town. I walked it, I ran it, I watched skaters and cyclists ride it, I dodged groups of pedestrians strolling with their dogs. I looked back at the magnificent views of the colonial city, views previously witnessed only by fishermen, sailboats, pirate ships and barges returning from the open sea.


I learned from talking to locals, the project was unpopular. Unimpeded views to the horizon were now marred by a busy roadway. Now, with this barrier, Casco Viejo was no longer truly a port city. It’s UNESCO World Heritage status was questioned and then left intact. To the locals, the Cinta Costera III had ‘ruined’ the historical heritage of Panama City’s most popular and important sites. To me, a visitor, Casco Antigua’s streets had become more inviting to the pedestrian. I enjoyed a safe passage, a vibrant connection to the public, the views, and a lovely evening stroll along the boulevard.


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Category: Central America, Destinations

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